There is nothing better than curling up on the couch with some hot cocoa and a great Christmas film. The beautiful Christmas tree standing in the corner, the snow falling outside, the fireplace crackling (if you’re lucky enough to actually have one), holiday cooking, and family all make Christmas one of the most magical times of the year.
But it wouldn’t be complete without that heartwarming tradition of sitting together with your family and popping in one of your favorite Christmas movies. From classics like A Christmas Story and Home Alone to more modern flicks like Love Actually and Elf, there’s a holiday film for every member of the family. The hard part is deciding. which is why this holiday, we’ve compiled the ultimate Christmas movie list to make your life easier. Read on to discover which of your favorites made the cut!
Holiday nostalgia is a real thing, and the main reason why no Christmas movie list would be complete without ‘Home Alone’. This 1990 classic, written by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus, has a talented young Macaulay Culkin play a kid who has been accidentally left behind by his family when they leave for holiday vacation. Culkin is left to fend for himself while two dimwitted thieves (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) try to break into the house.
The kid manages to outsmart them by placing elaborate, makeshift booby traps all over the house, making it into a crazy adventure. Even though this film might not evoke the same feelings in you now as it did back in the 90’s, it will still pull at your heartstrings and is definitely worth a watch!
When it comes to warm and snuggly romantic comedies, Nancy Meyers does it better than anyone. "The Holiday" casts four great leading actors into extremely likeable characters that find unexpected love during the holidays. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz play two women who, despite being extremely successful in their careers, have been very disappointed by love.
Desperately seeking a change, Diaz and Winslet, who live in Los Angeles and in the English countryside, respectively, decide to swap houses for the holidays. As the story unfolds, the two women are met with unexpected twists and pleasant surprises, and new handsome men to fall for (played by Jude Law and Jack Black). With a heartwarming performance by the legendary Eli Wallach, 2006's "The Holiday" might be one of Meyers' best movies yet.
A Muppet Christmas Carol
Imagine Jim Henson's beloved muppets as characters from a Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". Definitely sounds like something you'd like to watch, right? "A Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992) was the first big-screen Muppet project to be released after Henson's tragic death in 1990 (during pre-production of the film).
Fortunately, Henson's comedic eccentricity and unique spirit lives on through the film, making this Muppet musical a true Christmas classic. The film features wonderful music by Paul Williams, and a brilliant performance by Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge.
Sometimes all that's needed for a movie to work is the right actor. And this is definitely the case with 2003's "Elf". Comedy genius Will Ferrell plays Buddy, an adult who's grown up in the North Pole and is somehow under the impression that he's an elf.
Ferrell decides to travel to New York to search for his birth father, who's played by James Caan, and gets a job in a department store as he tries to navigate the human world. With the talented Zooey Deschanel playing a cynical co-worker, and all the goofy, ridiculous situations Ferrell gets himself into, "Elf" is the perfect movie for a heartwarming holiday laugh.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Considering this movie was released in 1989, you would think that maybe the cheesy comedy wouldn't be as hilarious today as it was back then. You'd be wrong. We honestly think that no Christmas is complete without the hilarious mishaps of the Griswold family, which somehow always manage to get themselves in the most cringe-worthy situations.
With a cast like Chevy Chase, Beverly D'Angelo, Juliette Lewis and Johnny Galecki, you and your family will be laughing for hours. There's a reason you keep seeing 'National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation' on every Christmas movie list known to man: whether it's back in the 80's or present-day 2019, dealing with awkward family situations never gets old - especially during the holidays.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Who doesn't love Charlie Brown? Anything combining one of America's most beloved comics and a holiday like Christmas is sure to make our list. Besides, the holidays just wouldn't be the same without listening to the Peanuts music theme. The first ever Peanuts comic strip was published almost 70 years ago, in 1950. Fifteen years later, in 1965, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was released and immediately became a holiday favorite.
The film follows the beloved Charlie Brown, who after going through seasonal depression (which is all too real and completely relatable), tries to plan a Christmas play. But not before the trusty Linus reminds him what the holiday season is all about. The beautiful and colorful animation, together with the innocence and sweetness of the story makes this a classic the entire family can enjoy.
It's a Wonderful Life
Nothing embodies the true spirit of Christmas like Frank Capra's 1946 classic, "It's a Wonderful Life". The film follows George Bailey, played by the legendary Jimmy Stewart, who despite being loved and having everything a man could wish for, spirals down into darkness. But as it turns out, when on the verge of taking his own life one sad Christmas, Bailey is visited by an angel that shows him how valuable life truly is.
In a time when the Depression and World War II were center stage, one can imagine why such a beautiful tale of hope became a timeless Christmas classic. "It's a Wonderful Life" reminds us that, with a little kindness and generosity, life can truly be a wonderful thing. And what better time to remember this than during the holidays with our loved ones?
A Christmas Story
'A Christmas Story' is a beautiful, heartwarming film based on radio personality Jean Shepherd's stories about growing up in Indiana. Directed by Bob Clark, this 1983 movie became a Christmas staple in every household.
The sentimental, yet darkly comedic plot, makes us viewers feel nostalgic about our own childhood, as we follow the lead character Ralphie's obsession with getting a Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas. The film is narrated by Shepherd himself, which makes it all the more authentic. This classic is a perfect mix of childhood nostalgia, family love and delightful comedy.
The Santa Clause
"The Santa Clause" has the sweetness of a typical Disney holiday film and the silly, Tim Allen-style comedy all in one.After accidentally killing a man dressed in a Santa Claus suit on Christmas Eve, Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) realizes that he must now take on the role of Santa.
Against his will, Allen starts to quickly gain weight and grow a big white beard, as he slowly begins to realize he must accept his new role and try to carry out his Christmas duties while keeping the secret from his ex-wife and his young son. This feel-good family comedy will leave you and your family feeling all warm and fuzzy.
You'd be hard-pressed to find anybody who hasn't yet seen "Love Actually". Since its release in 2003, the film became one of the best romantic comedy holiday films in recent years. And while there are some plot lines that are incredible predictable and cliche, a star-studded cast and Richard Curtis's great direction turn that predictability into a positive thing.
Including big Hollywood names like Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy and many more, "Love Actually" uses a multi-narrative plot to show the different characters' lives and their personal relationships with life and love. And of course, the holidays. To top it all off, Bill Nighy gives a wonderful performance of the beloved holiday song "All I Want For Christmas Is You". Is the film a bit cheesy? Yes. Is it worth watching? Absolutely.
There have been countless adaptations of Charles Dickens' famous book, "A Christmas Carol". And Richard Donner's 1987 film, "Scrooged", is undoubtedly one of the best. In this 80's holiday classic, Bill Murray plays a greedy, arrogant, and very successful TV executive that has gradually pushed everybody in his life away.
The movie gets increasingly funny as Murray is visited by a series of Christmas spirits that force him to take a look at his selfish lifestyle. Not to mention Carol Kane's hilarious performance as the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Miracle on 34th St
While most people only remember the 1994 remake of "Miracle on 34th St.", starring Mara Wilson and Richard Attenborough, the original classic was actually released in 1947. Instead of Mara Wilson, it was a young Natalie Wood that first played a little girl whose mother hires someone to work as a department store Santa, who may actually be Santa Claus himself!
The man goes on to face a trial in order to prove whether he really he is who he claims to be. From romance and fantasy, to childhood innocence and even comedy, this Christmas classic has it all. Director George Seaton spins a beautiful tale that will leave you wondering about the final verdict until the very last minute.
This isn't your typical warm and fuzzy Christmas movie - and that's exactly what makes it great. "Bad Santa" is a black comedy about two con men (played by Billy Bob Thornton and Tony Cox), that reunite once a year for a holiday scheme. The actors seem like the perfect cast for the film, as Thornton plays the heavy-drinking Willie Soke, a thief disguised as a mall Santa, and Cox plays his sneaky elf assistant.
This dark comedy takes an unexpected turn when Thornton starts to get close with an outsider kid and his mother (played by Lauren Graham), forming an oddball makeshift family. This is one Christmas film that has it all, and with the comedy genius of Bernie Mac and John Ritter, film director Terry Zwigoff is sure to keep you glued to the screen for the whole hour and a half.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Ever since its release in 1993, there has been wide debate on whether "The Nightmare Before Christmas" should be considered a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie. Clearly, it's both. And while at first (thanks greatly to the aggressive Halloween marketing), the film might seem to belong to the 'scary films' category, it's easy to forget that this Tim Burton classic is essentially a story of a generous, kind spirit (albeit, a ghoulish one), that learns the true meaning of Christmas.
Tim Burton's endearing and creepy characters come to life through the brilliant stop-motion animation directed by Henry Selick. The lovable characters learn valuable lessons and overcome obstacles on a backdrop of beautiful visuals that are both stunning and eerie at the same time. "The Nightmare before Christmas" is, and always will be, a must-watch for Christmas.
If you're looking for a more indie-style Christmas film , "Happy Christmas" is a great choice. Starring Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey and Joe Swanberg (who's also the director), the film uses family dynamics to expose greater personal truths behind the characters' seemingly perfect lives. Kendrick plays Jenny, a fickle, young woman who moves in with her brother and his family after a harsh breakup.
Jenny and her friend Carson (Lena Dunham) make the brother's wife realize that she desperately needs to turn her life around. The plot of an adventurous stranger coming into a family's close-knit domestic life and disrupting their somewhat "fake bliss", is something that's been done before, but Swanberg manages to give a personal, unique twist that makes "Happy Christmas" a joy to watch.
So, yes, this movie does have all the elements to make it a cheesy 90's Christmas flick, which it is somewhat, but it still made our list. Why? Because we're suckers for a new spin on an old tale and we love anything with Michael Keaton in it. In this 1998 adaptation of the classic "Frosty the Snowman" story, Keaton plays a man that's actually named Jack Frost. He starts the film as an aging, bitter rock musician and tragically passes away after an accident on Christmas.
One year later, his son Charlie (played by Joseph Cross), plays a song on his dad's old harmonica and brings him back to life...as a snowman. It's important to keep in mind that this was still the 90s and the special effects (like those required to make a snowman into a real life character) weren't nearly as sophisticated as they are today. If you can get past the somewhat creepy-looking snowman, you're sure to enjoy this lovely holiday film.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
If you're tired of Christmas movies focusing around Santa, family drama, or Frosty the Snowman, mix it up with this beautiful tale about Santa's leading reindeer. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is a beautiful animated classic from 1964, filled with quirky, lovable characters (like an elf who wants to be a dentist and an explorer who never finds anything of value) and a nostalgic selection of cheerful tunes.
Deeper themes of justice and kindness underline the childish innocence of the plot, all the while teaching us a very important life lesson: being different is never something to be ashamed of, but rather something to appreciate and embrace.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
After "Home Alone's" worldwide success, Chris Columbus decided to direct a sequel two years later. And it was just as good. Once again, Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) gets separated from his family, only this time, he's all alone in New York City. When he sees the two familiar faces of the dumb-witted thieves that tried to rob his house in the first movie, he discovers that they're planning to rob a huge toy store in Manhattan.
Adventure ensues, as we see Kevin getting back to his old tricks, only this time, he has an entire city to set booby traps in. What we love about this movie is that it also has many sweet and endearing scenes that make it a perfect addition to your holiday movie list.
The Polar Express
In this beautiful adaptation of the beloved children's book, Robert Zemeckis directs Tom Hanks in five different roles. Through stunning computer animation, "The Polar Express" tells the tale of a young boy who boards a magical train and goes on an epic journey to the North Pole so he can meet Santa Claus. But as it usually happens with epic journeys, the young boy meets some very unique characters along the way.
This inspiring 2004 film, which is only made better by composer Alan Silvestri's musical score, is sure to get you and your loved ones into the holiday spirit.
Meet Me in St. Louis
Who can ever forget the iconic Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"? The beloved 1944 classic, "Meet Me in St. Louis", is a beautiful musical separated into four parts, each one happening in a different season of the year. The plot centers around four sisters during the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, and their views on life and love.
Vincente Minnelli's romantic comedy has all the ingredients - wit, romance, singing, dancing, stunning period costumes and dazzling technicolor - to make this a timeless holiday film.
We know this one might be a bit of a curve-ball, since this is actually a slasher movie, but "Black Christmas" is the perfect mix of mystery, horror and holiday spirit. Directed by Bob Clark ("A Christmas Story", "Baby Geniuses") in 1974, "Black Christmas" tells the story of a group of sorority sisters, among them Olivia Hussey and Margot Kidder, who start to receive lewd, anonymous phone calls during their winter break.
Kidder, who plays the often drunk Barb, decides to play along until the caller starts to threaten her. Then, one of the girls at the sorority goes missing, and soon after another one is killed, which leads people to think there is a serial murderer among them. But no one can imagine just how close the psychotic killer actually is. Before the "Scream" saga, and all the similar movies that came after, "Black Christmas" was the pioneer of slasher films. Add to that a little Christmas spirit, and you've got yourself a 70's gem that you definitely don't want to miss.
Jingle All the Way
This 1996 Christmas favorite may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but its light comedy and watching Arnold Schwarzenegger play a desperate dad makes "Jingle All the Way" a holiday classic. The family comedy tells the extremely relatable experience of a parent's desperation to find the most popular toy of the season for their kid.
Trouble ensues when Schwarzenegger realizes that getting the allusive Turbo Man toy is going to be much harder than he thought. Racing against time, and another frantic dad on the same mission, Schwarzenegger carries out a hilarious performance in this delightful holiday movie for the entire family.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Famous director Ron Howard does an incredible job at bringing a beloved Dr. Seuss tale to life. "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" has been a beloved Christmas story ever since it was published back in 1957. The Grinch lives in isolation outside of the quirky town of Whoville; he hates the town people and loathes Christmas, but a six-year-old girl who believes in the magical spirit of Christmas takes it upon herself to try and change him.
In this 2000 remake, Jim Carrey plays the Grinch, a part which he plays so perfectly it almost feels as if the character were created especially for him. Together with Taylor Momsen, who plays Cindy Lou Who, the two actors give a hilarious performance that's sweet without being sugary.
A Christmas Tale
The beautiful and talented Catherine Deneuve takes center stage in this French comedy-drama from 2008. Every year, the Vuillard family, headed by cold matriarch Junon (Deneuve), gathers for Christmas, but this year, things take an unexpected turn. As if the regular family holiday tension wasn't enough, Junon shocks everybody when she announces that she has leukemia and asks her children and grandchildren to get tested to see if they're eligible to become bone marrow donors.
Unsurprisingly, what follows is a spiral of family friction and trauma, as skeletons start to come out of the closet. Even though "A Christmas Tale" deals with serious family issues that feel all too familiar sometimes, it is sprinkled with that very characteristic, smart French comedy that make this movie a must-watch for Christmas.
If you're in the mood for curling up with a hot cup of cocoa and watching a feel-good movie, this should definitely be your pick. "Serendipity" is one of those wonderfully light romantic comedies that leave you with a smile. Some of the movie's best scenes take place in New York City on Christmas Eve, which in and of itself already makes you feel like you're in a magical winter fairytale.
The film follows a British woman (Kate Beckinsale) and a New Yorker (John Cusack) who meet one evening and experience a short-lived romance, as they let fate decide if they are meant to ever see each other again. Years later, destiny has an interesting plan in store for these star-crossed lovers.
The legendary 1954 musical, "White Christmas", quickly became a Christmas staple all over America, and continues to be one until this day. With a stellar performance by Hollywood icons like Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, and the beautiful music of Irving Berlin, it's not hard to see why "White Christmas" became an annual Christmas traditions for Americans.
The film tells the story of two music partners (Crosby and Kaye) that join two sisters (Clooney and Vera-Ellen) in order to give one majestic performance and help their former military commander save his lodge in Vermont. Famous songs like "Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)", "Sisters", and even a new version of the titular song "White Christmas" will be stuck in your head for days!
Frosty the Snowman
Everybody knows the story of Frosty the Snowman, but fortunately, it's one of those stories that never gets old. Even though this animated classic came out in 1969, it is still as heartwarming and lovely to watch as it ever was. "Frosty the Snowman" follows the classic tale of a group of kids that unknowingly build a magical snowman and embark on an epic adventure to the North Pole in order to keep him from melting.
Along the way, the kids learn about the true meaning of Christmas, and what it means to be kind to others. Old school animation, quirky characters, beautiful visuals and super catchy music makes this film a must-have on our Christmas list.
The Family Stone
Even if you're not a fan of the typical American rom-coms, "The Family Stone" is one of those movies you'll never regret watching. Why? Because it's a witty comedy-drama with great performances by some of Hollywood's finest. With a cast that includes Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Sarah Jessica Parker and Craig T. Nelson, this film paints a perfect picture of what family holidays are really like - a gathering of sometimes unlikable characters with which we have a love/hate relationship.
The film is about an uptight businesswoman (Parker) that visits her boyfriend's family for Christmas, but after meeting the cast of quirky and loud characters, she feels completely out of place. And rightfully so, since the family isn't crazy about her either. Expect witty dialogue, hilarious scenes and a tear-jerking performance by Keaton, who plays the matriarch of the family.
"The Apartment" is an American cinema masterpiece. This brilliant comedy, directed by the one and only Billy Wilder, won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1960, and with very good reason. The iconic Jack Lemon plays a single man that allows his co-workers to use his apartment for their private affairs, but things start to get increasingly messy when he falls for his boss's mistress (played by Shirley MacClaine).
Even though it's not exactly a Christmas movie, this unique story of love and, ultimately, loneliness, takes place on and around Christmas Eve. Besides, you're guaranteed to spend a very amusing two hours watching Jack Lemon deal with all kinds of awkward situations.
The Preacher's Wife
This 1996 remake of the "The Bishop's Wife" (1947) features stellar performances by Denzel Washington, Whitney Houston and Courtney B. Vance. Directed by Penny Marshall, "The Preacher's Wife" is a family drama about the struggles of a Baptist Church pastor in a poor neighborhood in New York City.
Christmas is approaching, everything is covered in snow, and just when Reverend Henry Biggs (Courtney B. Vance) is about to lose all hope, an angel (Denzel Washington) enters his life and offers to help. And what happens after is definitely worth a watch.
When Harry Met Sally
With Rob Reiner's direction, Nora Ephron's screenwriting, and Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal's performance, it is no surprise that "When Harry Met Sally" became a true cinema classic. This hilariously witty, realistic, and sweet romantic comedy follows the friendship between two people for more than a decade. After a superficial meeting in college, these friends keep running into each other at different pivotal points in their life, until they finally decide to start running into each other on purpose.
But the reason we've included it on our Christmas movie list is because, not only do many crucial scenes occur during the holidays, but one of the last (and most important) scenes, happens around Christmas. Not to mention the recurring life lessons about relationships and friendships throughout the entire film, which couldn't be more fitting for the holiday-season spirit. Christmas or not, you do not want to miss this one.
Christmas with the Kranks
You can't go wrong with a holiday comedy starring Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis as a married couple. Overjoyed by the idea of finally spending a holiday alone, the Kranks (Allen and Curtis) are ostracized by their neighbors for deciding to take a vacation in the Caribbean on Christmas, since the entire neighborhood is set on winning a yearly "best decorated street" contest.
But things quickly take a turn when their daughter shows up unexpectedly and the couple is forced to stay home and come up with a last-minute holiday celebration. Directed by Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Home Alone 2, Mrs. Doubtfire),"Christmas with the Kranks" is a cozy, PG family flick that will surely become a staple on your holiday movie list.
Even though it might have been underappreciated back in 1994, "Mixed Nuts" is definitely worthy of making the list. Co-written and directed by Nora Ephron, this 90s film stars comedic genius Steve Martin as the manager of a suicide prevention hotline who gets evicted from his office on Christmas Eve - the busiest night of the year. Ultimately, the movie brings an unlikely group of people together to remind us of the importance and beauty of humanity, and having a sense of community.
Understandably, people may have thought this witty comedy to be a bit too dark for Christmas, but with a cast like Juliette Lewis, Rob Reiner, Adam Sandler, Liev Schreiber, Parker Posey, and many more, this is a quirky holiday flick that shouldn't be missed.
In a plot that may sound extremely familiar to some families, "Four Christmases" is about a couple that have to do an overwhelming holiday tour and visit all four of their divorced parents for Christmas. Released in 2008, this delightful comedy is starred by Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn, whose acting in itself already makes this hilarious to watch.
Nothing gets you into the holiday spirit like family drama, and this movie has plenty of it. Next time you're dreading having two separate Christmas dinners, just be happy you're not these guys.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
If you're familiar with filmmaker Shane Black, you'll know that he sets most (if not all) of his films around the holidays. But undoubtedly, 2005's "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is one of his best. This black comedy tells the story of a thief that accidentally stumbles into an audition while running from the police, and ends up partnering with a private investigator on a case that takes them both on a wild ride through Christmas season in Los Angeles.
The chemistry between the thief (played by Robert Downey Jr.) and the private investigator (played by Val Kilmer), is simply too entertaining to miss.
One Magic Christmas
Most people might not remember this 1985 Disney film, but "One Magic Christmas" not only has the stellar appearances of Mary Steenburgen and Harry Dean Stanton, it is also the quintessential Christmas film. Despite it having a less than successful run at the box office, it still made its way into the hearts' of viewers, becoming a holiday favorite.
The legendary Harry Dean Stanton plays Gideon, an angel that watches over a working-class family and its hard-working matriarch, who struggles with some difficult issues as she realizes what Christmas is really all about. "One Magic Christmas" is the perfect mix between the harshness of real life and the nostalgic sentimentality of the holidays; and a great family flick in general.
The fact that Queen Latifah plays the main character in this heartwarming Christmas flick, is just one of the many things that make this a great holiday classic. Released in 2006, "Last Holiday" is a movie about a patient that gets a mistaken diagnosis thanks to a damaged MRI machine, and is led to believe that she is terminally-ill and doesn't have long to live.
The woman decides to take her life savings and go on a culinary adventure to Europe, constantly reminding us of the importance of living life to the fullest. An unexpected romance, beautiful locations, a clever script and fantastic acting make this a Christmas must-see, especially because you're going to want to know what happens when Latifah comes back home only to discover she's not dying and she's spent her life savings!
The Night Before
"The Night Before" is hilarious in the way you'd expect any film with Seth Rogen in it to be, and it's only made better by actors Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony Mackie playing his lifelong buddies. For ten years, the three friends have had the tradition of getting together every Christmas Eve to celebrate with a massive party. However, this year, they decide it has to be extra special, since Isaac (Rogen's character) is about to become a father.
The movie follows the guy's quest for the legendary and debaucherous Nutcracka Ball, considered to be the ultimate Christmas party in New York. "The Night Before" is one of those good holiday comedies that reminds us of guys that refuse to grow up, only to be eventually slapped in the face by cold, hard reality. Definitely worth a watch!
If you're looking for a light Christmas comedy that's a bit unconventional, 1983's Trading Places is the film for you. John Landis directs comedy legends Eddie Murphy and Dan Akroyd in this hilarious family comedy. The film follows two unscrupulous millionaire brothers who cook up a scheme for Christmas as part of a bet - to switch the fortunes of a pretentious investor and a clever street artist (Akroyd and Murphy, respectively).
"Trading Places" is filled with sneaky Wall Street crimes and conspiracies, all the while bringing traditional holiday values to the screen. This classic 80's comedy reminds us of the importance of love, generosity and friendship, and keeps you laughing all the way through!